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Good that OSM is accurate in cities as well, because in hiking, skiing, or even some ferry routes, OSM simply wins because that's often the only mapping provider to even have _any_ data. Some of my first hand experiences:

- French GR-20 routes. Google maps are laughably empty, while OSM has you covered with almost the same information as the hiking maps you can buy on the trail.

- Anapurna - similar to GR-20 situation. This route gets changed often due to landslides, but there is always some person doing a great job updating information not too late after.

- Volcanoes - OSM maps often contain camping grounds, water sources, etc. This is something I actively contribute too. The level of detail is amazing. Some guides in fact lose potential clients because of this.

OSM is a wonderful feat by all its contributors, and isn't appreciated as much as it deserves.

In my country, there is an amazing government mandated service called Swiss Topo (https://map.geo.admin.ch), which can be accessed freely. Here are some features:

- detailed maps from 1:10,000 to 1:1,000,000

- hiking routes which are actively maintained. You can create your own hiking routes, and it will estimate the time that it will take to complete them.

- historical data, like historical maps since 1864 and aerial photos

- aeronautical maps, naval charts, geological maps, ...

- basically any kind of data that you can find on maps, such as land registery, water planning, spatial planning, etc.

I am not sure if other countries provide this level of service free of charge. I would be curious to see what other countries offer on this topic.

NSW, Aus offers SIX Maps: https://six.maps.nsw.gov.au (this offers very good imagery of the NSW areas, better than google)

That's the easy-to-use-maps.

There's also the aus-wide https://nationalmap.gov.au where you get basic satellite maps with the option to add various datasets and even daily maps from Landsat 2A

There's also ELVIS foundation spatial data https://elevation.fsdf.org.au

There's don't really cover hiking trails that much, etc. There's more general purpose mapping applications.

It's also possible to find various topographic maps in static form somewhere on the government sites.

Councils are the ones that provide the hiking trails, etc. so it depends on the locality. The Northern Beaches council for example provides an interactive trails map, but most have static maps.

Wow - very interesting.

Btw: the URL for Six maps is: https://maps.six.nsw.gov.au/

Not sure if it was changed but it took me a few tries to find the right permutation

Thanks for this comment!

How do you view daily maps from Landsat 2A? I couldn't find it in the options on nationalmap.gov.au

Those are all government funded and the data is private, correct?

Here the national land survey bureau (ČÚZK, rough translation) maintains maps in a similar scale to the one you posted. But they were opened only recently (they used to be for sale for pretty high prices) and the bureau haven't built a compelling web interface over them. The current UI [1] is basically just an ArcGIS frontend, with no automatic layer choosing based on zoom level and quite slow at that.

Planning maps are usually unfortunately only held by the responsible subjects (towns and larger administrative blocks), so there's no one map or one format. Most of these maps are at least published in some viewable capacity, though, from what I can tell.

[1]: https://ags.cuzk.cz/geoprohlizec/

swisstopo is really good, but as far as i know, sadly, only some data is open, and not all of it

There's a bit of discussion in `osm_ch` that from March on, the SwissTopo data will be free OpenGovernmentData: https://www.swisstopo.admin.ch/en/swisstopo/free-geodata.htm...

The debate is what 'free' means :)

Oh, this is very interesting. Thank you for the link.

I think some of the questions about what 'free' of charge mean are answered below in the frequently asked questions section.

I know that I dearly miss the French IGN. It’s close to impossible to find decent paper map for hiking in the US.

I've found the Nat Geo waterproof maps to be quite good. Between the "Trails Illustrated" fold-up maps and the "Topographic Trail Guides", the east coast is pretty well covered.


I also use Gaia GPS as a planning tool. Fiddle with routes on the laptop, then load the relevant map squares on the phone for offline use. It has the NatGeo maps, plus several other sources, available for overlay. With this, my NatGeo paper maps largely become backups.

Have you tried USGS topo maps?

I guess the paper will be out of date, I'm not sure what the new electronic ones do for local and regional trails (I think they would print okay, they just aren't distributed directly on paper).

OSM isn't perfect--especially on trails that aren't official in any way. (Although there are some totally informal trails literally out my door that are far better than you could reasonably expect. And the missing sections are probably on private land which is one reason I haven't filled them in.) But Google seems to have pretty much zero interest in mapping even popular official trails in many cases.

Nothing is perfect, not even official paper maps.

I remember a hike we did on holiday in the Drôme department of France when I was a little kid, long before OSM or Google Maps or even Microsoft's Terraserver. Must have been somewhere in the mid to late 80's, I think. We did have a paper map though, and I think it was an official topographic map. We started in one valley and the plan was to hike up the ridge and then down to the neighboring valley, where we knew the Tour De France was going to pass that day. Watching the Tour was not really the main objective, otherwise we would have driven to a more suitable spot by car, but it was an incentive to keep us kids going. In hindsight we could never have made it on time.

The map clearly showed paths on both sides of the ridge, and sure enough, walking up the ridge went smoothly (if tiring) along that path. But when we arrived at the top, there was no path down the other side to be seen. There simply wasn't one, and the terrain was not exactly suitable for walking down without a path. The world simply didn't conform to the map. So we stayed there for a while and saw the Tour pass far below us, much too far to recognize anything except the helicopters but even those looked more like flies than helicopters from our high point of view.

That wasn't the only time we saw significant differences between French maps and France itself, but it was by far the most memorable one.

For people not knowing it: https://opentopomap.org

OpenStreetMap with the traditional topographic view. But I was not able to find where you wanted to hike to see the Tour de France.

I don't know exactly either, but there are some clues I thought of after I posted that story. I remember we were cheering for Flemish cyclist Fons De Wolf since he had won the stage the day before. I found out that he won stage 14 in the Tour De France of 1984 (which means my earlier estimation of mid to late 80's was not entirely correct), so the stage we observed from a distance must have been stage 15, from Domaine du Rouret in the Ardèche to Grenoble (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_Tour_de_France#Route_and_... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_Tour_de_France,_Stage_12_...)

Sure enough, that passes through the Drôme departement where we were on holiday. I don't have the exact route for that stage, but it's described as a hilly stage so I assume it passed through the Vercors Massif on its way to Grenoble. That's most likely where we were that day, but where exactly I can't tell. I could ask my father but I don't think he'll remember either. It's quite a long time ago, after all.

There's an OpenTopoMap too, at least on Android. I think it's amazing how much information on the world around us we can now get with almost no effort and cost.

That's pretty good - almost as good as OS 1:25,000 maps for landforms and actually better for showing paths.

I'm often hesitant about mapping the unofficial trails, particularly the ones you aren't supposed to use. There are many around the SF bay area, some are simply non-maintained non-system trails, while others are illegal mtb paths off the allowed trail network. Some of them are so well traveled in areas with minimal erosion that they are almost as good as maintained trails, although often less well graded.

Yeah, these are basically ATV trails near my property which are probably mostly not supposed to be there. Certainly on private land although conservation land as well. I've been appreciative for them during current times and I've even been appreciative that the ATVers tend to come in and clear fallen trees and the like. But that doesn't mean I feel comfortable plotting tracks on OSM--especially those parts of the tracks on private land and especially those parts where ATVs have ripped up the terrain in said private land.

In thr Uk, I believ, paths 'legalise' themselves - once a path is established, if used continously it will become a public right of way.

Then you cant close it or obstruct it even if you are the land owner

Help contribute back to make it amazing. That's why OSM is amazing :)

It gave my old Garmin GPS a new life, where Garmin stopped providing updated data. A packaged map file with OSM data made it useful again.

For those in a similar situation, I use this


For those in a similar situation which want this for Europe, too, use http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl, which has worldwide coverage.

The other great mapping resource is CalTopo (https://caltopo.com). Outside did an article on how CalTopo is used by people who work and play outside: https://www.outsideonline.com/2229756/your-navigation-outdat...

That story (from 2017) is fantastic. CalTopo - and OSM, at best of times - a project of passion. Thanks for sharing!

I often notice when OSM is wrong/missing data while hiking and I'll record a trace and update when I get back home. I enjoy contributing but I wish there was a bit more of a community aspect to it (or maybe I simply haven't found that). In some areas the US government agency maps are hilariously out of date or simply completely wrong so OSM is great to able to simply fix it after visiting.

You can find something at https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Contact_channels or https://community.osm.be/ (click on your area).

Personally I follow

- global Discord channel (and local one) https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Discord - global and local Telegram - https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/List_of_OSM_centric_Tele... - forum of a local community - https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tagging_mailing_list (if you enjoy participating in design of tagging schemes) - https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Talk_mailing_list

For hiking, what I also like to do is add small and "useless" features to the map, that can help navigation.

Like, if there is a small open spot or some minor structure in the middle of the woods, I will add it. If someone is walking and not sure if they are still on the right track, they can look around, see the open spot, see the open spot on OSM, and know that they are indeed at that place.

I've really enjoyed the community at slack.openstreetmap.us great for finding projects or people to work with. There are local channels!

Is there an easy way to contribute from my phone? If I could just turn the GPS on and let it track my path I’d be able to contribute all of my random hikes that might not be on OSM.

You can directly upload GPS traces:


That won't get them into the OpenStreetMap database, but it makes them available (if you set them to public) for anyone looking to add the trails.

There's also apps like StreetComplete. It has 'challenges', where it prompts you for answers to questions and updates OpenStreetMap accordingly (so what is the surface type of a road, things like that).

Vespucci is a full featured editor for Android.

OSM discourages adding raw GPS tracks to the map, rather they should only be uploaded to a sort of waiting room hosted on OSM's infrastructure. A GPS track from a phone or unit is something that needs to be carefully examined, compared to other GPS tracks from the region or aerial imagery, and then tweaked and refined. You need to be able to use specialized mapping software properly in order to contribute tracks to OSM. The good news is that the barrier to entry is fairly low for people like you and me on this "news for nerds" site.

There is bunch of suggestions on how to contribute to OSM with your mobile here: https://learnosm.org/en/mobile-mapping/

On the left side you have a list of apps/devices with guides and summaries

Street complete (fdroid/playstore or GH) is a very easy way to use your phone to quickly to edits or validate data. https://github.com/streetcomplete/StreetComplete

You can also add details using https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/StreetComplete, it's super simple and almost like a game :)

I quite like that interactive website that helps visitors choose a mapping tool: https://whatosm.pavie.info/

It asks the difficulty level, time you'd like to spend, and whether you want to map at home or on the terrain.

You should be aware that it rather biased (doesn't show tools that are in competition to those that the author was involved in), and out of date.

That could be, but it's a start, and helped me discover a few tools.

Do you have a list of such tools? Do you have a source for attributing this to malice rather than ignorance?

Now, my personal opinion on mobile editing: Vespucci is a bit complex, but basically allows you to do anything on the go. I ususally save GPX tracks using OSMAnd, but it can be heavy on the battery.

After registering, it took me only like an hour to have my track up and mapping it with their brilliant online editing tool. There are some gotchas, but the interface is really friendly and their wiki is vast with info, references and tutorials alike.

Interesting thought.

I have GPS traces for a number of Amtrak routes across America. I wonder if those would be useful.

I imagine something as large as a railway is already covered (especially with the railfan community). In fact in most locations they actually include the number of tracks, passing loops and other features that a simple GPS track will not have.

Why not? It is always informative to have more information. Especially if you know ahead of time, what side of the train to be on, to see more interesting things. Also having information on one map program is great. Why switch apps? Especially since OSM is so privacy friendly.

While I agree that OSM is great and highly accurate, I would be careful using it in remote locations where your life may depend on a correct trail. It is very easy to edit OSM (changes are propagated into map tiles after a few minutes), and malicious intent is not immediately spotted. The latter is especially true in remote locations.

I usually look at Strava's heatmap when I'm unfamiliar with an area. Chances are if there's a path on the map, it shows up on the heatmap.


That is a fantastic idea. Thank you for sharing. I just checked a few trails that were missing in OSM and they all showed up as bright yellow on heatmap.

Strava even has their own fork of the OSM online editor iD[0], that uses the heatmap data to align (or "slide" [1]) paths to where people have been. I haven't used it in a while, it was pretty slow when I did and I don't know about licensing etc, but it looks like it still works. So if you want to add the trails you could try it out.

[0] https://strava.github.io/iD

[1] https://labs.strava.com/slide/

Slide unfortunately hasn't worked for years. Not long after Paul Mach, who created slide, left strava, there was that whole national security incident with the heat map.

The heat map was changed to hide military bases, etc, but it broke slide and no one cared enough to fix it.

This is incredibly unfortunate because Slide is ideal for mapping trails in the woods. Lacking something like it I end up tracing them by hand, which is a pain. (I do a lot of trail mapping in Michigan.)

I mean...sure, never blindly trust anything. But is there any proof of "malicious intent" in OSM mapping, having lead to actual issues?

I mean...sure, never blindly trust anything

This. 'death by GPS' is a thing unfortunately, and those are usually maps you actually pay for which makes it worse, in some way.

In rural areas of the US, there are some places where OSM data is hilariously bad. At one point they imported a whole bunch of TIGER data that wasn't cleaned up properly, and it's still showing roads that don't exist a decade later.

It's a good way to tell if a mapping service is using their own data or just ripping off OSM though.

The amount of detail OSM has on Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, is insane.

Also, until quite recently (and maybe even still today) Google Map was terrible at bike routes in and around Amsterdam, whereas OSM was excellent at it. I remember how Google ignored major bike routes and tried to send you over highways or footpaths instead. Nowadays they just send you along bike paths next to major car thoroughfares, instead of sending you along the major bike thoroughfare that's discouraged for cars, running parallel to it.

You can look at French hiking maps online at https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/carte - I find it works well for planning a route and then I use OSM when I'm actually doing the hike.

For volcanoes, what do you mean guides lose potential clients because of this? Like their maps aren't as good as other guides and so people don't hire them? I'm a bit confused.

With a sufficiently accurate map, hiring a guide is unnecessary.

Somewhat similar to the situation with IT, where sufficiently documented software or hardware cuts into consultancy fees.

This is good to hear. Any idea if it's accurate with coastal data? I'm asking for a scientific project that seeks to map the locations of various seaweed strains.

There’s OpenSeaMap: https://map.openseamap.org/

These experiences are interesting, but I think Annapurna might not be the right benchmark to evaluate against. One of the least climbed and most deadly mountains on Earth seems rather far from OSM's core use case.

It is cool that OSM has the data, but I hope anyone attempting the summit is getting information more directly from other climbers.

The reference is presumably to hiking the Annapurna Circuit, not for climbing Annapurna itself.


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